As a Realtor, I work with both customers and clients. Do you know the difference?
I am a real estate agent when I'm working for my clients. I am a non-agent when working with my customers. The difference is whether or not you and I have entered into a written agreement for agency representation.
Typically, sellers enter into a written agency agreement with the signing of the listing agreement. There are exceptions, but not often. Almost always, a listing agent is actually that, an agent of the seller.
On the other hand, buyers tend to be more inclined to remain customers as they work with a Realtor to buy a house. A buyer agency agreement will transform you from customer to client status. I don't believe any buyer who understood agency would proceed without it.
The biggest difference to you, between being my client or my customer, are some very important obligations I am held accountable to, under state law. When I am your agent and you are my client, we have a fiduciary relationship and I am legally held to a higher standard of conduct.
State license law defines the terms of our customer and client relationships -
When you are my customer I am required to:
- Perform necessary and customary acts to assist you in the purchase or sale of real estate
- Perform these acts in good faith and with honest and reasonable care
- Properly account for money or other property you place in the licensee's care
- Disclose adverse material facts which are, or should be, within the licensee's knowledge
As a customer, your brokerage will not act as your agent and is not required to promote your best interests or keep your bargaining information confidential. If you use the services of a brokerage without a written agreement, you will remain a customer.
When you are my client, the points above apply, along with these addition obligations:
If you choose to sign a representation agreement, you will become a Client. The brokerage and its licensees must act as your Agent. They will owe you the following duties in addition to the basic Customer level services required of all licensees:
Perform the terms of your agency agreement with skill and care
Promote your best interests in good faith, honesty, and fair dealing
Maintain the confidentiality of some client information, including bargaining information, even after the representation has ended.
In a nutshell, as your agent, I am required to work for you with skill and care. I like to think that I operate that way with everyone, but I'm not required to by law! If you are my customer, I only need to exercise reasonable care, not skill. This always makes me smile.
I am also now required to promote your best interest. This means I am obligated to seek the best possible outcome for YOU, no matter what. I am not the referee of the transaction, I am your coach, trying to win the toss, get the home team advantage, point out fouls of the other team, get the extra seconds added back to the clock. I am legally bound to promote YOUR best interest!
What the confidentiality of the bargaining information means to you is that I cannot tell the other side of the transaction that you would pay more than our offer, or take less than you're asking. Or anything else that has to do with your motivation. On the other hand, if I know anything about the motivation of the other party which would be in your best interest to know, I am obligated to pass that information to you.
(Now having explained this, you can clearly see the disadvantage to a buyer who is working with the seller's listing agent to purchase a property.)
Specific duties owed by a real estate brokerage and its licensees to Idaho consumers are defined by the "Idaho Real Estate Brokerage Representation Act." Idaho Code Section 54-2082, et seq